With a little know-how and a lot of ingenuity, an Oxford couple built their dream home almost completely on their own.
Written By Allison Estes | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Down a winding country road in the Woodson Ridge area northeast of Oxford, a trim, modern, newly built home sits on the crest of a hill. You can’t tell from the front, but within, large windows and a deck along the backside of the house offer sweeping views of the valley and hills for miles beyond. Everything about the house seems perfectly suited to the site, and to the owners, Kerby and Mindy Ladner — perhaps because they did much of the work themselves.
“We did electrical, we did plumbing, we did flooring, we did painting, all that stuff,” Mindy said. “We installed lighting, installed all the fixtures; we did the kitchen, we did everything — just the two of us. If you like it, we did it — if you don’t like it, we did it.”
Mindy, who has a degree in design, did the preliminary drawings of the house, and Kerby, an electrician, handled the wiring. An architect drew up the plans to scale, and a contractor dried-in the house, including insulation, sheetrock and countertops. But pretty much everything else, from waterproofing the basement to roughing in the plumbing before the build, the couple just figured out how to do on their own.
The home is on some acreage that had been in Mindy’s family. Mindy grew up near there; Kerby is from the Happy Valley area off Campground Road. The couple owned a farm in Tate County and, for a long time, had plans to build there, but things changed. Kerby’s dad died, making him want to be closer to his mom; Mindy took a job at Wildrose Kennels, while Kerby worked in Batesville. Ultimately, they decided to remain in Oxford.
They broke ground in October 2016. It took about a year and a half, but in February 2018, they were able to move in.
The couple designed the home to be comfortable and functional, starting with the orientation of the house on the site. The front of the house faces the road on the west side. The back of the house has large windows to take advantage of the stunning view to the east. While the house isn’t specifically passive solar in design, that did play a part in many of the choices the couple made.
“We wanted to maximize our eastern view and minimize the west facing facade, since we are situated close to the road,” Mindy said. “We didn’t stick to strict passive solar ideals because we didn’t have a true need for solar heat gain living in Mississippi, but plenty of need for solar exclusion with the never-ending summers.”
The slope in back of the house was completely wooded but has been cleared except for two trees that leaf out and provide morning shade in warmer months, as does the overhang over the deck. Clerestory windows near the ceiling allow more light in winter, but a deep overhang reduces the amount of sunlight in summer. Smaller windows on the west side allow for cross ventilation, but help keep out the hot afternoon sun.
“Our house can be ventilated easily with only being a single-room depth and lots of opposite windows and doors for cross breezes,” Mindy said. “We also have a full basement that keeps at a constant temperature of about 64-65 degrees, even without any heat or AC. We took a risk with the darker paint color, but it hasn’t affected our indoor temps in summer.”
On the main floor, the master bedroom and bathroom are at one end, and a guest suite is at the other. The open common space in the center includes the kitchen, dining and living areas. Mindy’s and Kerby’s tastes are both evident in the interior design and decor, which includes clean lines, and a mix of natural and contemporary details.
“My husband would love to live in a log cabin, and I would love to live in, like, a glass box,” Mindy said. “So the contemporary design kind of balances the two of us. Elements of polished and shiny and glass: That’s me. Wood and rustic: That’s him.”
The ceiling height in the center area of the house angles from 10-17 feet. An exposed beam across a 30-foot span is the backbone of the house.
“My husband didn’t have a whole lot of faith that it (the beam) was going to look very good,” Mindy said. “He was like, ‘This is not going to be very pretty, it’s just a glue lam beam.’ And I said, ‘No, when we get it stained, it’s going to be neat; it’s going to be different.’ And when they see the house, that’s the overwhelming response from people. People say, ‘Wow this is so different, but I like it.’”
The couple installed the tongue-and-groove pine on the ceilings of the decks outside the kitchen and dining space, which will eventually be joined to wrap completely around the back of the house. They also built the welded metal railing around the deck.
“My husband is the welder, and I’m the holder,” Mindy said. “I just held it vertical, and he welded.”
Mindy intended to have the kitchen and bathroom tile contracted, but ended up doing it herself. Energy efficient LED lighting is used throughout the home, especially pretty in a multistrand crystal fixture over the dining table. For the common space, the couple chose a vinyl wood floor, which they also installed.
“I could have spent the same amount of money and had hardwood,” Mindy said. “But I have dogs; I cook a lot; I don’t want to have to worry about the floor being messed up or scratched, and this I can go through and wet mop.”
The kitchen cabinetry, which they also installed, takes advantage of the high ceilings by providing lots of vertical storage. Downstairs, in the same footprint, the unfinished basement with recycled tin walls offers ample space for office, dogs and even more storage.
“You can never have enough storage,” Mindy said. “I didn’t want to clutter up the upstairs with any kind of junk. It’s probably a little more clinical and sterile than what some people like, but I like for it to be restful and simple. I don’t like clutter; I don’t like things everywhere. I don’t want to have to move all that stuff. I want to be able to go through, clean and dust in an hour.”
Mindy and Kerby say the satisfaction of having everything just the way they wanted it, as well as the savings, was worth all the effort. They wouldn’t change a thing.
“Doing everything yourself, it’s going to take you twice as long to get it done,” Mindy said. “But you’re going to save a whole lot of money that way. Building that value was worth it in the long run.”